Career Opportunities in Pharmacology and Drug Discovery

In celebration of a decade of progress for PR&P, we would like to invite colleagues interested in advancing basic and clinical pharmacology to attend this webinar. The focus of this meeting will be to celebrate the wide range of research and career opportunities within the field of pharmacology and drug discovery. With a diverse panel of presenters whose journeys have crossed the boundaries of academia and industry (occasionally several times!), the webinar will explore the many and varied opportunities for career development and progression. This will be underpinned by examples of key research progress, which we hope may form part of a subsequent special issue in PR&P.

Themes and topic areas:

1)    Key advances in receptor pharmacology and drug discovery
2)    Varied routes to careers in industry / SMEs
3)    Varied routes to careers and opportunities within academic settings
4)    The challenges of maintaining a work-life balance
5)    The importance of research culture and team science 

Can't join us? A recording of the webinar will also be made available to registrants. Please make sure you register ahead of the webinar to access the recording.

09:30 – 09:45 Welcome and Introduction
Professor Jennifer Martin, University of Newcastle, Australia

Chairs: Eddy Wragg & Dr Samantha Cooper, University of Nottingham

09:45 – 10:00 Nicola Dijon, Sosei Heptares 
Talk title:
GPCR drug discovery – from academia to industry to academia to industry...
10:00 – 10:15 Dr Chloe Peach – New York University / University of Nottingham
Talk title: 
For the love of Neuropilin: academia from the UK to the US (and back again)
10:15 – 10:30 Mark Soave, OMass Therapeutics 
Talk title: The journey so far as a (not so) Early Career Researcher 
10:30 – 10:45 Ashia Wheeler-Crawford – Wellcome Trust PhD student, University of Nottingham 
Talk title: 
From Jamaica to the UK- My journey in balancing family and research 
10:45 – 11:00 Jessica Coley- An undergraduate student on a placement year our Pharmacology lab group 
Talk title: 
From Undergraduate into Research, Navigating the Transition
11:00 – 11:30 Open panel discussion with audience 
Chairs: Eddy Wragg & Dr Samantha Cooper, 
University of Nottingham

Nicola Dijon

Speaker: Nicola Dijon, Research Scientist at Sosei Heptares

Talk title: GPCR drug discovery – from academia to industry to academia to industry...

Biography: Nicola completed her MSci undergraduate degree in Neuroscience in 2017, including a 12-month placement at Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Beerse,Belgium) working within the in vivo Neuroscience research group. Between 2017-2022, Nicola completed her PhD with Dr Nicholas Holliday and Prof Steven Charlton at the University of Nottingham developing novel biosensors to monitor ligand signalling and binding kinetics at G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). As part of her PhD, Nicola completed a placement at OMass Therapeutics (Oxford, UK), developing skills in protein engineering and native mass spectrometry for GPCR drug discovery. Following her PhD, Nicola joined a drug discovery hit optimisation project as a research fellow at the University of Nottingham with Dr Nicholas Holliday, Dr Shailesh Mistry and Prof Steven Charlton, funded by the MRC’s developmental pathway funding scheme (DPFS). When looking to move into the industrial drug discovery sector, in November 2023, Nicola joined as a Research Scientist at Sosei Heptares (Cambridge), working towards developing new therapeutics targeting GPCRs.

Ashia Wheeler-Crawford

Speaker: Ashia Wheeler-Crawford, PhD student, University of Nottingham

Talk title: From Jamaica to the UK- My journey in balancing family and research 

Biography: Ashia is a third year PhD student in the Drug Discover and Team Science PhD program at the University of Nottingham.  She was born and raised in Jamaica where she earned a BSc in Biotechnology in 2008. She then transitioned from a 6-year teaching career to complete a MSc in applied biopharmaceutical biotechnology at the University of Nottingham in 2014. She spent the next 5 years working at a SME within the pharmaceutical industry gaining experience in both formulation and analytical techniques. Her passion for research has led her to pursue a PhD. Her project is focused on the regulation of angiogenesis in triple negative breast cancer by the bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) proteins. As a student and a mother of two, she has first-hand experience of challenges associated with maintaining a work-life balance and the importance of positive research culture in allowing her to achieve her goals.

Dr Chloe Peach 

Speaker:  Chloe Peach, Assistant Professor in Molecular Pharmacology, New York University / University of Nottingham 

Talk title: For the love of Neuropilin: academia from the UK to the US (and back again)

Biography: Funded by the BPS A.J. Clark Scholarship, Dr. Chloe J. Peach completed her Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham, exploring the spatial and temporal dynamics of how growth factors interact with receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and other cell surface glycoproteins involved in tumour angiogenesis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Peach moved to the U.S. as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology at New York University, investigating various GPCRs and RTKs involved in chronic pain to explore non-opioid alternatives for analgesia. Here, she was awarded the Leon Levy Fellowship in Neuroscience, studying the role of glycoproteins in RTK-induced pain. In the Summer of 2023, she then moved back to the U.K. to establish her own research group at the University of Nottingham as part of the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE), exploring how RTK pharmacology is modulated by the local microenvironment.

Mark Soave 

Speaker: Mark Soave, Senior Scientist, OMass Therapeutics

Talk title: The journey so far as a (not so) Early Career Researcher

Biography: Mark completed his PhD (2017) at the University of Nottingham under the supervision of Prof Hill and Prof Woolard where studied the molecular pharmacology of an antibody raised against the Beta-1 adrenoceptor. He continued his research in Nottingham, working with Prof Hill and Dr Briddon to investigate the molecular pharmacology of Class A G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) with biologics and resonance energy transfer techniques. For this work, Mark was awarded the Bill Bowman Prize Lectureship in 2020. Mark has organised several virtual conferences for Early Career Researchers (ECRs), promoting ECR engagement throughout COVID lockdown, and provided a platform for ECRs to showcase their research. In 2021, Mark moved to OMass Therapeutics based in Oxford where he now works as a Senior Scientist within the Pharmacology & Immunology group. Mark is also involved with the European Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (ELRIG), where he is Chair of the Early Career Professional Workgroup and an ELRIG Board Member. He thoroughly enjoys organising and attending events which sit at the interface between big pharma, academia, and biotech. Mark was recently elected as a Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society (2023). 

Jessica Coley

Speaker: Jessica Coley, Neuroscience Undergraduate, University of Nottingham

Talk title: From Undergraduate into Research, Navigating the Transition

Biography: Jessica Coley is a Neuroscience Undergraduate at the University of Nottingham, currently completing her placement year in the COMPARE research Lab. At this Webinar, she will provide an introduction to her background and present her expectations and experiences within her placement year in research. Along side this, she will discuss the benefits of being an undergraduate newly entering pharmacological research and discuss how this can guide you into future, post graduate career stages I.e pHD, Industry etc. 


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Eddy Wragg 

Eddy Wragg, University of Nottingham Medical School 

Biography: Eddy graduated from the University of Oxford with an MSc in Pharmacology (2017), before continuing his passion for the subject by studying for a PhD (2018-2021) funded by the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) at the University of Nottingham, supervised by Prof Jeanette Woolard and Prof Steve Hill. Eddy’s PhD explored the cardiovascular responses of selective adenosine A2A and A2B receptor ligands. During his time as a PhD student, Eddy was a member of the COMPARE Team Science Committee, organising both social and training events. After his PhD, Eddy worked for Exonate Ltd as a Research Scientist, gaining valuable industrial experience in drug discovery. In the summer of 2023, Eddy returned to the University of Nottingham as the Training Lead for the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) in Drug Discovery & Team Science. Eddy’s current postdoctoral role involves planning events and training for students and supervisors on the DTP, as well as continuing the experimental research that he conducted during his PhD with the Nottingham COMPARE team.

Dr Samantha Cooper

Dr Samantha Cooper, Assistant Professor of integrative cardiovascular and molecular pharmacology

Biography: Samantha completed a PhD from Coventry University in 2018, where she explored mechanisms of cardiovascular toxicities associated with anticancer therapies. Samantha then began a Centre of Membranes Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) postdoctoral position at the University of Nottingham, where she investigated allosteric modulation of adenosine receptors and inhibition of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). She also measured the cardiovascular responses associated with drugs that target these receptors in in vivo and ex vivo settings. In addition to this, Samantha became training lead for a Wellcome Trust funded doctoral training programme in 2020. In 2021, Samantha was awarded the BPS Pickford award, which she used to develop a precision cut lung slice technique to monitor pulmonary artery responses to RTK inhibitors. Samantha was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham in the summer of 2023. She is now beginning to establish her research group, focusing on the impact pharmacological modulation of G protein-coupled receptors and RTKs has on the cardiovascular system.

Professor Jeanette Woolard 

Professor Jeanette Woolard, University of Nottingham Medical School 

Biography: I lead one of the few laboratories in the world able to monitor complex cardiovascular responses in conscious animals. My in vivo laboratory has a world class reputation for its unique ability to monitor regional blood flow in three different vascular beds in conscious animals. This has allowed me to secure major external research grants and helped me to develop important collaborative links with industry (AZ, Promega, Heptares, Medicines Discovery Catapult) and establish major international collaborations research groups in Europe, USA and Australia.  I am a co-applicant on both a £2.4m MRC programme grant and a £750K BHF Infrastructure grant (to enhance our state-of-the-art confocal imaging facilities).  I am also PI on a recently awarded £4.5m Wellcome Trust four-year PhD programme on Drug Discovery and Team Science.  Finally, I am the Nottingham lead for a €3.8m grant from the European Commission for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions ITN INSPIRE: (INnovation in Safety Pharmacology for Integrated cardiovascular safety assessment to REduce adverse events and late stage drug attrition).  

From Jan 2021, I am the Nottingham Director of the £10m Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) having served as Deputy Director of COMPARE in Nottingham since its foundation.  I have been awarded a fellowship by the British Pharmacological Society (2020), and the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal (2020) from the University of Nottingham for my work on Team Science. I have published highly-cited papers in relation to cancer and angiogenesis. Over the last five years I have published high profile papers in Cell Chemical Biology, Communications Biology, FASEB J, British J Pharmacology and Biochemical Pharmacology. Outside of my cardiovascular haemodynamics work, I have been involved in developing novel fluorescent ligands to study VEGFR2 (with Promega), and NanoBRET approaches to monitor target engagement of GPCRs in tumours in vivo (with Monash University).  

My in vivo cardiovascular models are the basis of a major project with AstraZeneca, including a fee-for service agreement, to evaluate pre-clinical candidates for adverse cardiovascular effects. They have also underpinned collaborative projects with Birmingham and Monash University, on GPCRs, cancer and positive allosteric modulators of the adenosine A1-receptor. As Deputy Director for COMPARE, I established a summer placement scheme to award undergraduate students from all backgrounds a grant to work in labs in either Nottingham or Birmingham as part of my Team Science initiative. This has given postdoctoral researchers the chance to gain valuable supervisory experience, and promoted the COMPARE research area to undergraduates. My Team Science efforts have been widely recognised as an example of my citizenship activities, and I was featured as part of the Imaging Scientist website initiative which championed both our own Team Science initiatives and the need to acknowledge better the role of technologists in scientific research ( 

My main areas of research focus are related to cardiovascular physiology and molecular pharmacology, with a particular focus on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs).  I head one of the few laboratories in the world able to monitor cardiovascular haemodynamics in three different vascular beds using Doppler flowmetry in conscious rats.  This allows us to interrogate complex regionally specific pharmacology whilst also monitoring heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure.  This has been applied to understand cardiovascular safety in drug discovery, but also to unravel detailed regionally-selective pharmacology of key receptor agonists and antagonists.  I am also currently applying novel waveform analyses to expand the information available from both Doppler and telemetry studies. I am involved in several collaborative projects using NanoBRET to monitor ligand binding to both GPCRs and RTKs in real time in model cell systems, and we are currently expanding this work to CRISPR/Cas9 genome edited primary cells (vascular endothelial cells).   I have been involved in developing novel fluorescent ligands to study VEGFR2 (with Promega) and NanoBRET approaches to monitor target engagement of GPCRs in tumours in vivo (with Monash University).  
1). Professor Jennifer Martin, University of Newcastle, Australia 
2). Ross Corriden, Director of Inflammation at RAPT Therapeutics 

20 February 2024
20 February 2024
09:30 to 11:30

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